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Minority Populations Spur Rural Nevada Economy

Minority families are helping support shops and schools in many rural communities. (ulkare/iStockphoto)
Minority families are helping support shops and schools in many rural communities. (ulkare/iStockphoto)
August 7, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Two Nevada counties are the fastest growing rural counties in the West, due in large part to an influx of minority residents, who make up a growing share of the labor force, according to a new report.

Analysis from Headwaters Economics found that 99 percent of all non-metro western counties added to their minority population from 1980 to 2015. Kelly Pohl, research and policy analyst at Headwater and study co-author, said Nye County near Las Vegas was the fastest growing counties in the West, and Lyon County near Reno was the third-fastest.

"Both Nye and Lyon counties in Nevada are growing because of specific economic opportunities and jobs, like small-scale manufacturing and Amazon warehouses that have provided job opportunities in those places so they're growing really quickly,” Pohl said.

Eureka County - a mining community in central Nevada - is a real outlier, because it actually lost minorities even as the number of mining jobs increased 11-fold.

Across the West, 73 percent of rural counties gained overall population, and in 19 percent of those, the counties only grew because of an influx of Hispanics, other people of color, and foreign-born residents.

Pohl said some places such as Mineral County south of Reno lost overall population, but added minorities - newcomers who are keeping the school districts and many of the shops open.

"Because minority populations tend to be younger on average than non-Hispanic white populations, they inject youth and cultural diversity and economic vitality into places, some of which would otherwise be shrinking,” Pohl said.

As of 2014, 28 percent of Nevada's population was Latino. Their growing electoral influence helped propel many candidates into office, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, the state's first Hispanic governor, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada's first Latina senator.

Suzanne Potter/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NV